Monday, 31 August 2009

Strange perspective

I mentioned here that I was originally planning on writing my Norse story (Now titled 'Gods of Asgard') in two parts. Part I would detail the events leading up to Balder's death and Part II would focus on the imminent war.

I then decided that rather than invent a lot of story to fill the majority of a second movie, I'd put them both together. But that wasn't working at all - everything seemed rushed and littered with forced exposition. I needed more time and space to set up the war. So I went back to my original plan of two movies.

Famously, people have great difficulty spotting errors in their own work, whether it's typos in an essay or story problems in a script. But someone else (who has no predisposed thinking of the concept) can instantly spot the problems.

'Gods of Asgard' is essentially a retelling of Norse myths so most of the plot was already set in place. I say plot because we know next to nothing about the characters and characters are what make a story. There are touches of plot here and there that I created (usually as a result of character relationships) but for the most part, I was working with someone else's story.

That gave me the stranger's perspective - I was able to spot what wasn't working and why. I messed around with characters (introducing some earlier and some later) and moved a whole subplot from Part I to Part II. I also took a lot of creative liberties with the finale. In Norse legend, all the major players are killed in the final battle. No-one likes that! We need at least one person to survive! And some of my major characters feature very little in the Prose Edda (my source material), so their fates were never revealed in myth.

Anyway, the point is that I was able to get that rare perspective - a perspective you only ever seem to get from looking at someone else's work. That's what makes a great storyteller - the ability to notice and rectify errors in the story itself. The ability to be completely neutral and objective, having no loyalties to favourite characters or plot elements. I managed it!

But of course this was - in part - someone else's story, so I'm not convinced I've yet completely mastered the art of objective story editing. Fingers crossed.

'Gods of Asgard' Parts I & II now come to a lovely 18 pages so whenever I like, I can attack a blank script page. Then comes the fun.......

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Take your craft seriously......

......if you want to be in the top 1% and sell that screenplay you've been working on for years:

"Write great scripts, with original story concepts, play the marketing game, and it seems to me that a spec script sale will be imminent.

Are you taking this craft seriously?

Are you:

  • writing daily, several pages?
  • constantly brainstorming story concepts, coming up with high concept loglines?
  • reading all the books on screenwriting you can get your hands on, regularly?
  • reading screenplays of movies in the genre you are writing?
  • participating in a local screenwriters group, or at least networking with other serious writers?
  • structuring your stories, beating out the scenes before typing FADE IN?"

Friday, 28 August 2009

Script-a-week & treatment workshop

Since putting a chart on my door where I can tick off each hour I write, I've decided to jump head-first into my writing. Being able to cross off a little square after every hour of uninterrupted* work is a great way to motivate yourself. How many hours have you spent writing this week? If you don't know, consider using a chart. It also helps you write at least one hour every day, because looking at a blank column is horrifying! Just shade off days you know you can't write and focus on the others.

They say the best thing we can do as writers is read scripts. Most people will know about this, but there's a blog where you can download at least one script a week - Script Collector. Entirely made up of PDF scripts, he has a wide variety, including 'Pulp Fiction', 'Saving Private Ryan', 'Changeling', 'Donnie Darko', 'Star Trek' (2009), 'Die Hard' 'Fight Club' 'Inglourious Basterds' and much much more. So now there's absolutely no excuse for not being able to find scripts.

Yesterday, I set myself up with a script a week until Christmas. Ask me what I'll be doing week beginning 16th November and I'll say I'm reading Ed Norton's 'The Incredible Hulk' screenplay. Again, putting this up on the door is a great way to keep you focused on the week's goals. I'm also adding something similar to my blog so I can never forget.

In other news, I'm travelling to London on Saturday 12th September to attend Charles Harris' treatment workshop. At £85, it may seem expensive, but if you take a look round, you'll see it's really not!

As you all know, treatments are one of the first ways of getting your script made. Without a decent treatment, it doesn't matter how good your script is.

The workshop starts at 10:30 and finishes at 5:30. During the day we'll learn about:
  • The requirements of a successful treatment
  • Choice of vocabulary, language patters and structures
  • The traps that treatment writers must avoid
  • Nine vital steps towards writing an exciting treatment
  • Using story sentence, inner story, character constellation
  • The step outline
  • The masterpiece treatment
We'll also receive a pack containing top treatments and synopses.

The course looks really interesting and valuable. It'll be a long, hard day, getting up at 6am to get to London then not getting home till late, then working the following......snore.........

*wakes up*

There aren't many places left, so scoot over here pronto to book your place.

Over on ScriptXray, there's a list of 100 screenwriting tips. Goes without saying - a valuable resource!

Finally, for instant writing inspiration, fly on over to Marvin Acuna's site and watch this quick video which tells you what never to say to someone.....

There's a line in Metallica's 'Don't Tread On Me' that goes:
To secure peace is to prepare for war!
I have my own version:
To become a successful writer, write your fucking arse off!
Granted it's not quite as poetic, but you get the point!

Happy writing fellow scribes :)

PS: Is anyone else already booked on/planning on going? Let me know!

* Uninterrupted means not checking facebook,
myspace, the blog, e-mails, or twitter!!!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

This week's Norse musings

It's been a funny seven days. I started off doing very well. On Saturday, I decided to reboot an idea I had a while ago. As some of you will know, I'm a huge fan of the Classics (note the capital C meaning ancient times of Greeks and Romans). I've often considered setting a film in those times, maybe adapting Homer's The Odyssey or The Illiad. But both have been done fairly recently and it's practically impossible to do The Odyssey justice without having a 4 hour film.

So I turned my attentions to another interest of mine - Norse mythology. Most people have heard of Thor, Odin, Loki and several other Norse gods, but I think their stories are yet to be told through the world of film. So I got to work.

I read the Prose Edda online. If there was such a thing as a Norse bible, this would be it! It's not an easy read, but fortunately, once you've battled through some Old English texts, you manage. I soaked it up, making notes on everything that happened and what I thought it meant. Then I read Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings by Kevin Crossley-Holland. For anyone interested in Norse mythology, I highly recommend his book - his writing style is poetic and he explains things clearly.

In truth, I think I'd decided before all this what story I would tell. But after reading, I was certain where to start. A quick overview for anyone unaware:

It's was prophesied that the death of Balder (Odin's son) would trigger Ragnarok (the final battle in which everyone dies and all worlds are destroyed). Loki (god of mischief) did his usual thing and stirred up trouble. He killed Balder. Ragnarok began.

Pretty basic stuff really. But as usual, the clever stuff comes in the how and why as opposed to the events themselves. Scholars have said different things about the death of Balder - what did it mean? Could it be avoided? Should it be? Who is really to blame for Ragnarok? I have my own theories, but they're secret! *

Anyway, this week I got to work planning the events leading up to Balder's death. It was easier than I thought - a case of writing what we are actually told then deciding what creative liberties to take. Add a lot of characterisation and theme and you've got a solid story.

I had originally planned to write the story in two parts. Part one would show the events leading up to Balder's death and the death itself. Part two would then detail the war that followed. But I was struggling to think of enough of a story for part two. After talking with Michelle, I decided to slam it all in one film. Granted it would come to over 3 hours, but I think it could work.

As things stand, I'm struggling. I'm trying to get everything in there and pad it all out without it seeming forced. I'm also adding a fair few original characters to give alternative perspectives on events.

I'm sure it will all click eventually but it's so hard to get my head around! After starting off so well, I've come to a grinding halt. It's frustrating but shit happens. I just need to keep attacking it and trust that I'll find my groove again.

When I'm writing and everything is working, I'm as happy as a Viking in Valhalla, but when things don't quite go as planned, it feels like I've been hit by the mighty Mjollnir! I'm sure you all know how I feel (using your own cocky metaphors).

Production-wise, it's not very practical. This is a story with frost giants, massive wolves, gods, huge landscapes, epic battles, a journey into Hel and a snake big enough to wrap itself round the world! Needless to say, a budget of millions would be needed.

I thought about computer animation. That would lower the cost but as it turns out, not considerably. One animation company I spoke to said this:
I would love to get involved in this; and as soon as I have 20 or 30 million pounds at my disposal I shall move forward on it.
But I'm not giving up. I'm still pursuing computer animation companies and if nothing comes of it, the worst case scenario is that I write it and use it as a calling card.

Anyway, I have tomorrow and Saturday to work on it because from Monday, I'll be carrying on with 'Exile'.

Happy writing, scribes!

*See the 200 page script

Update: I have now decided to go back to the original plan and make this into two scripts. It's a gamble, but worse case scenario - I have to merge them together.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Weekly Interview (10)

This is a hardcore video from Robert McKee's Story seminar. Here, he talks about the importance of setting and the limitations and possibilities of the worlds you create. To make sure you get a handle on what he's saying, make sure you watch at least three times! Listening to him talk, you learn at least one thing - do not argue with Bob McKee about story!

Friday, 21 August 2009

'EXILE' - part 1

A while ago, I talked about doing a series of posts detailing my writing methods through a feature script. Alas I got sidetracked (which is not uncommon for me). However, with the idea I'm working on at the moment, it's impossible for me to get sidetracked, because it's for uni.

So here I am, talking through how I go about writing a feature script. A year ago I came up with the basic idea and wrote a (very rushed and consequently poor) script. Now I've taken that idea and expanded.

I've just finished writing the synopsis for 'EXILE'. It's essentially a rough, prose version of the story, with no dialogue and very little detail. It comes to a hefty 12 pages (7500 words) which is very long for me. But it should make the scriptwriting considerably easier.

Now I'll make revisions to the story, theme and characters (I expect to remove a few) and try and work out how long (screen time) that'll be. The plan is to take the synopsis and work it into a very rough scene breakdown. Obviously, from there I'll know how many scenes I have and roughly how long each one will take on screen. If it's too much or too little, I'll get to work expanding the story.

All this might take some time because I want to get opinions before rushing on with things. Primarily I'll be getting the advice from my tutor Linda-Lee. After all, she'll be the one helping most and marking the damn thing!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Do you want over 40 hours of screenwriting lessons?

If you answered 'yes', read on!

I've spent a lot of time recently watching episodes of TV written and/or directed by Tim Minear. Most people out there will know the name - he's written loads for Joss Whedon, namely 'Angel', 'Firefly' and 'Dollhouse'. The thing you'll notice about Tim's work is how tense it is - every single scene seems to have great amounts of character tension. Sorry, the first thing you'll notice about Tim's work is his love for slo-mo - something he uses with amazing effect!

Here's one scene with semi slow motion and it works great, adding depth and emotion to the moment.

Anyway, I was listening to the commentary to 'Lullaby' ('Angel' season 3), which Minear wrote and directed. There are some great insights into the writing process and some great tips (like how rain can improve a scene). You also might want to transcribe everything he and fellow writer Mere Smith say, as it's fucking hilarious!

Joss Whedon is a fine writer. And he has an amazing ability - he finds writers just as good as himself - the best of the best. On the DVD boxsets (of 'Buffy', 'Angel' and 'Firefly') there are many commentaries from the writers and directors.

Even if vampires or spaceships aren't your thing, you should definitely buy the DVDs. If for no other reason than you're guaranteed a few hours of screenwriting lessons for every season*

So get buying! I see writer's commentaries as one of the greatest sources for information and you should too!

*Number of commentaries in Whedon's box sets:

'Buffy' season 1 = 2
'Buffy' season 2 = 4
'Buffy' season 3 = 4
'Buffy' season 4 = 6
'Buffy' season 5 = 4
'Buffy' season 6 = 6
'Buffy' season 7 = 7

'Angel' season 1 = 2
'Angel' season 2 = 2
'Angel' season 3 = 3
'Angel' season 4 = 7
'Angel' season 5 = 7

'Firefly' season 1 = 7

That comes to a grand total of 61 commentaries from three TV shows. Each commentary lasts 40 minutes (an hour and a half in the case of one) so 60 x 40 = 2400 minutes = 40 hours + 1.5 hours = 41 hours 30 minutes.

Yes, that's over 41 hours of screenwriting lessons! I think you know what to do!

Weekly Interview (9)

This week's interview features some of the best bits from a Blake Snyder Q&A. He talks about character progression and genres, including how 'Alien' and 'Jaws' are the same movie. Enjoy...

Monday, 17 August 2009

Becoming an Exile

It's been a wee bit quiet on here of late. The reason is I've been at work more than usual. I'm planning on doing a lot of work on EXILE this week, so it will probably stay quiet. I say 'planning' as I listen to a song with the lyrics - "Well there's nothing you can say to me now! And there's nothing you can do to stop me!"

Anyway, I will work a lot on EXILE this week so there won't be many posts. But I'll still find time for the weekly screenwriting interview at some point. Think I'll rummage around for something from Mr Tim Minear - he's always cool!

Happy writing, dudes!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Weekly Interview (8)

This week's interview once again comes from The Dialogue, featuring screenwriter Paul Haggis who is responsible for CRASH and the Oscar nominated script for MILLION DOLLAR BABY. As a writer, producer and director, Paul has a rounded view on screenwriting, knowing just what it takes to make a movie.

Here, he talks about his writing methods and why the next scene is always the impossible one. He also touches on the fear of failing, idea inspiration and how real life effects writing. Enjoy...

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Harry Potter + Star Wars = every kids' film ever!

Take a good look at this:

If you hadn't already noticed, 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' is exactly the same as 'Star Wars'. There is a very basic structure to 99% of fantasy stories. Most tend to be aimed at kids, but technically all fantasies can follow this structure. You don't have to study children's literature or read up on films to spot the similarities between a lot of films. Here are a few examples:

- The 'farm boy' protagonist - Luke Sykwalker / Harry Potter / Lyra Belacqua / Frodo Baggins / Eragon / Aladdin / King Arthur / Conan / Alice / Dorothy

- The absent parents - Parents are either dead or lost (usually because of the antagonist), resulting in:

- The boring, ordinary life - Work on a farm, horrible step-parents/aunt & uncle, poor but content, unhappy school life.

- The inciting incident - This almost always comes in the form of the 'saviour' character, who comes in and takes the protagonist away from their boring life, thrusting them into a land of thrilling heroics, where they must save the world. This character is often a mysterious male:

- The 'saviour' character - Obi-Wan Kenobi / Hagrid / Gandalf, Aragorn / Merlin

- The wise, old mentor character (often acting as the 'saviour' character also) - Obi-Wan Kenobi / Dumbledore / Gandalf / The Genie / Merlin.

- Inhuman bad guys (these are either not human or wear attire/masks that completely dehumanises them) - Storm Troopers / Death Eaters / Gobblers / Orcs.

- The best at... (the protagonist is often the best there is at something) - Quidditch (Harry Potter) / spaceship flying (Luke) / resistance to the ring (Frodo) / perseverance (Lyra) / chosen (Arthur).

- The parent-destroying antagonist - Darth Vader / Voldemort / Thulsa Doom.

There are plenty of other examples, but I'm sure you get the idea - kids' fantasy stories tend to follow the same basic structure. Usually, that story takes place through the course of one film ('Harry Potter', 'Aladdin'), but sometimes it takes an entire saga/series ('Star Wars', 'Lord of the Rings').

The question is - is it a good idea to follow this structure when writing such a story?

It's there for a reason right? If it ain't broke, don't fix it! 'Star Wars' and 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' follow this structure to the letter and they're among the most popular films ever made. But is the first 'Harry Potter' film that good? Is it a patch on the others? As the books/films progress they steer away from the classic structure, taking on their own stories.

'Star Wars' takes the standard structure and shifts it round a little, throwing in unexpected twists, such as the death of the saviour/mentor character and the revelation that Darth Vader is in fact Luke's father.

So I suppose the key is to take the standard, classic structure and to subvert it. Audiences know what film makers are doing. When they go to the cinema, they can see when they're being told the same story time and time again. Everyone's a critic!

From a creative outlook, you don't want to do what everyone else has done. You want to make it as different and original as possible. And you should.

However, if it's too different, it won't work. I don't mean it won't work as a story, just that it may not working from a 'I want to get this movie made' angle.

Producers (they're the folk who fork up all the money for our creative dreams) know what works. They're probably more well-versed than anyone on what's hot at the moment and they're looking for something similar.

They'll know the 'Star Wars' structure like the back of their muggle hand and when hearing about a story, if it's similar, they'll know it'll sell. But if it's just too different, they won't be interested - because it's not done having a rich, happy protagonist meet a hip, young mentor chap, then fighting ordinary villains to save the not-so-perilous world.

From this post, I'm now convinced that the key to writing a good, saleable kids' fantasy film is to take the classic structure and subvert it until it's original, but not unrecognisable. And with that in mind, I'll be off to write my story about a young orphan who is rescued by a nice old man and then realises that it is his destiny to fight the parent-murdering overlord who threatens the world.

Good day to you, readers.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Post-Apocalypse Awesomeness

What is it about post-apocalyptic (P-A) stories that make me insanely giddy with excitement? I think those who like them, love them. I've come to the conclusion that the main appeal of P-A tales are the fact that it could happen!

You watch something like SPIDERMAN and think "Gee, wish I could be Spiderman! :(" But you're not. You know you're not. You're never going to have those powers. Maybe as a kid there's hope, but as the years go by and you get older and older, you are certain you will never become Doncaster's Friendly Neighbourhood Spiderman.

However, the whole point of a P-A story is that is hasn't happened yet! So technically, no matter how old you become, you could, one day, find yourself in such a world. And that, my friends, is - in my opinion - the reason P-A stories appeal to me so much.

Another reason is the look they have. Ridley Scott practically created the visuals of a P-A world in BLADE RUNNER and ever since, movies have attempted to mimic it, adding new, interesting twists. Take a look at this bizzaro, futuristic landscape:

Some other great P-A landscapes include THE MATRIX, TERMINATOR, MAD MAX. These sorts of settings take something we know and distort them, turning them into something familiar, yet alien.

Another attractive visual element of the P-A movie is the clothes. It's chance to - yet again - take the familiar and distort it. Sometimes things become more basic, as is the case in THE MATRIX:

Often, a military aspect is taken in the film and therefore, the clothes match. THE TERMINATOR is one such example.

Joss Whedon's DOLLHOUSE features a 'what if' episode, where we're zapped 10 years into the future and given a taste of a P-A Dollverse. The clothes worn in 'Epitaph One' (the episode in question) are similar to those worn in a lot of P-A movies because the characters live in a harsh, hostile and cold world. They wear layers and carry as much as possible, simply because they never know when they'll need it:

So in case we suddenly find ourselves in a P-A world, here's a checklist of clothes you should have in your house:
  • Heavy combat boots
  • Durable, dark trousers (preferably jeans)
  • Vest
  • Jumper
  • Hoody
  • Long, brownish coat and/or short, black leather jacket
  • Fingerless gloves
  • Fake dirt to apply to the face
What about everyone else? What makes you so excited about P-A films? The look, the possibilities, the story (which I haven't talked about at all!)? Let me know.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Spartacus: Blood and Sand

"How many men would you kill to hold your wife again?"
"I would kill them all."

Something I'm very much looking forward to in 2010 is SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND.

This is the TV show based on the historical character who brought down the Roman Empire. There's very little known about the man and what he did, meaning that history can be played with. I'm 100% certain that the show will be insanely inaccurate (based on Roman lifestyle and history) but I'm also 100% certain it will be fun.

The most comforting thing for me is that one of the chief writers is Steve DeKnight, (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, ANGEL, DOLLHOUSE, SMALLVILLE). He knows what he's doing and specialiases in dark action pieces. He gave us some of the best ANGEL episodes, including 'The Girl in Question' (hilarious), 'Apocalypse, Nowish' (incredible action), 'Damage' (very dark).

The show stars Andy Whitfield (in the title role), John Hannah, Erin Cummings and Lucy Lawless. Done in the style of 300, it won't be to everyone's tastes but I think it's worth a look. With one of my favourite writers in such an influencial role, I'm very excited. It looks incredibly violent (which I always and enjoy) and has its fair share of sex. Think 300 meets GLADIATOR. Check out the trailer and let me know what you think:

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Weekly Interview (7)

Here's an interview with writer/director Neil Marshall (DOG SOLDIERS, THE DESCENT) talks about the blending of genres and the practicality of shooting, specifically in relation to DOOMSDAY. Enjoy...

Monday, 3 August 2009

Chocolatey Characters

Stay with me on this post, folks. Please! It's a little long-winded, but entertaining (I hope). You should come away with one or two interesting character ideas.

There's one good thing that comes from working in a shop - you meet a lot of people. Folk pick up their goods and potter on over to the till, where I - the bored-out-of-my-mind Sales Assistant (as we're called) - take everything, shoot it through the till, slap it in a bag and take the money (to put in the till, I might add).

Now we're clear on how retail works (for those who have been living on a spaceship for the last 100 years), let me explain how working in a chocolate shop works:

People come in and wander round, staring at all the yummy goodness, slowly loading up their baskets like mindless, sugar-fueled chocoholics, until, yes - the basket is full. Then they make their way over to little old me - Neil - who has spent all day counting out 50 little items, putting them in a bag, then zapping them through the zapper thingy and chucking them on the shelves *

And they are greeted with a smile. They place their chocolatey baskets next to the till and the fun begins. If I'm in a weird mood, I'll scan everything through the till, making an odd expression; one that says "Whoa! You've got a lot of shit here! You really shouldn't be eating so much chocolate! I'm judging you for this!"

This leads to the best thing about working in a chocolate shop - the justification.

At this junction, people feel the need to explain why they have such a large basket of 'bad for your health' chocolate. And now, to the point of this rambling post - people say the weirdest things when justifying their unhealthy eating. Here's some of them:

We'll start with the classics. These are the ones I hear most and never fail to amuse:

- "It's not all for me!" - Everyone's heard it, everyone's said it. Of course it's not all for you! It's for your husband, your wife, your kids, your aunt, your uncle, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, your third cousin twice removed, your pet dragon! No matter what, all this chocolate is not for you! This justification is customarily followed by the 'Ah, now I understand' nod and/or a 'If you say so' smile.

- "I'm on a diet" - Not really a justification as opposed to a downright lie! No, you're not on a diet! If you were on a diet, you wouldn't be buying 10 bags of Misshapes and a Fudge! This is merely a way of addressing the fact that the chocolate they've bought has exceeded £20. Everyone thinks they're the first to say it and laughs proudly at their original sense of humour. This annoying explanation is followed by a forced laugh on my part. Not one so obvious that I'm taking the piss, but just forced enough so the person realises I've heard it all before.

- "There's so much chocolate in here!" - Yes, it's a chocolate shop! I'm pretty sure you were expecting a certain amount of chocolate when you walked in here! Nevertheless, this is a way of saying that because the shop contains so much chocolate, they are powerless to resist - they must buy at least 10% of the entire stock, otherwise they will die! Yes, DIE! This is almost always followed by 'You're not wrong!', 'Well observed!' or (if I'm very tired) an 'Mmmm' in agreement.

- "It's for my friends in America!" - Is it really? This is interesting. Last I checked, they had chocolate shops in the US and they were very weird on the subject of taking food into their country. Be honest, people - it's not for your friend in America, it's for you to enjoy while watching an episode of Eastenders! If I'm feeling particularly smart that day, I'll say 'Oh? Where abouts do they live?'. Some people (the experienced chocolate-buyers) will have their story well rehearsed and will reply (with no hesitation) "New York". They always get a suspicious eye-squint. Most people however, come out with this: "Erm.....they er......just south of.....on the the left of know.....the one that.......New York! They live in New York! Ha!" The response - laughter.

These justifications go on and on, but what I really want to say is that occasionally, you get some pretty weird ones! Here are a few I've heard and they're on this blog because they might be useful for some sort of character creation. Use what you will - I hope they spark ideas. Please note that all of these explanations have been used and none whatsoever have been made up:

- "I can't drink tea without food!" - As we all know, it is a physical impossibility to drink a cup of tea without it being accompanied by some form of sustenance. Moreover, this sustenance must come in the form of chocolate! Don't fight it, just eat it!

- "It's cold!" - Yes, this person was under the impression that chocolate now serves as a heating device.

- "My car's in the garage!" - It speaks for itself really. This person is planning on one thing and one thing only - building a form of transport out of chocolate! I wish this gentleman all the luck in the world with his epic endeavour!

- "I've run out of change!" - This is the person who has only a £20 note and requires a 10p piece. So what do they do? Spend £9.90 on chocolate!

- "I've not got long left!" - This old lady was probably in her 80s. Upon realising her imminent death, she decided to go out in style - by purchasing over £30 of chocolate. I pity the person who found her!

- "You're quite thin!" - Yes, readers, I am in fact quite a thin person. So this woman clearly feels the need to make herself that little bit fatter, just to even things out - restore balance to the world.

- "It's my child's first day at school tomorrow!" - What better way to make your kid fit in at a new school, than to send him with tonnes of chocolate? I'm absolutely certain there is no chance of him being jumped and brutally beaten to death by 30 sugar-starved five-year-olds. He'll be fine!

- "The wife's out of town!" - This fellow likes to live dangerously. His wife has put a ban on all things sugary and rules the household with an iron fist! No bag passes through the front door without her thorough inspection. But while she's away, the prisoners go wild - splashing out on Giant Buttons!

- "My daddy said I couldn't have this!" - Another adrenaline junkie, this time in the form of a 6 year-old boy. After being told under no uncertain terms that Trident Sugar free Gum was off-limits, the sneaky bugger decided to go ahead and grab one anyway. 'They're 49p each, or two for 60p...' I tempted, holding another strip. Doubt flickered in his eyes. The biggest choice of his life! Confusion as he glanced from the gum to the pound coin in his tiny hand. "........okay......." he replied. With a broad smile, I took his money and told him to hide the gum in his pockets. He crept out the door like a jungle cat - fearless and proud with his decision!

That's all I have for now. Hopefully something there gave someone an idea. Congrats on getting to the end of what was a most unusual blog post. Farewell fellow scribes and remember: next time you're in a chocolate shop, thinking of justification for all the stuff you've bought - say something clever!

* Please note - I always place chocolate carefully on the shelves. Never is anything broken in my hands! I take my job very, very seriously!


While we was in New York, Rachel and I became very slightly obsessed with a kids' show called iCarly. It is, without a doubt, one of the smartest and funniest kids' shows I've ever seen.

In short, it's about three kids (Carly, Sam and Freddie) who host a webshow every week, while being watched over by Carly's big brother Spencer. In this episode, the kids come across a TV show that completely rips off their show. So in response, they travel to the studio and do battle with the evil TV writers. But how do three teenagers face up to highly annoying writers?

Just take a look at this quick clip and you'll see what I mean. It's either love or hate methinks. Hopefully you'll be like me and you'll love it! I can't embed the vid, but take a look on youtube.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

New York Adventure

So, I spent the past week in the Big Apple. It was probably the second best holiday I've been on (the Cayman Islands has retained first position for many a year). We spent a day wandering round Central Park (that makes it seem like you're nowhere near a giant city) and another exploring shops (Bloomingdale's, Macy's et al - overrated!)

We got the ferry over to see the Statue of Liberty and stopped off at Ellis Island on the way back. Quite a good day, but that was when the weather heated up - there was a lot of ducking and diving into shade! In the queue on Liberty Island, I came across possibly the most idiotic person on the face of the planet.

Two Americans were having a conversation with two other people. The conversation went something like this:

Americans: So, where you from?
Austrians: Austria.
Americans: Wow! So do you ski?
Americans: Live on a mountain?
Austrians: No....
Americans: Oh.........
Austrians: ...................
Americans: you speak French and American then?
Austrians: Well, it's German in Austria, so German.
Americans: And American?
Austrians: English!
Americans: Oh yeah, we butchered the English language!

*Awkward silence*

American Kid: Mommy, who built the Statue of Liberty?
Americans: Ah, well, the British made the English build it when Christopher Columbus first came over.
American Kid: Wow! Thanks! *Writes answer down on their little quiz. Smiles innocently.*

I wonder whether those people actually knew what they were going to see that day! I'm thinking you could have shown them a bloody spaceship and they'd have been none the wiser! Nevertheless, they brightened up our day! Feel a little sorry for the kid though; let's just hope he goes to a bloody good school!

Another day, we made our way to the 82nd floor of the Empire State Building. It was a good day so the view was great. You could see Liberty Island, Brooklyn Bridge and much more.

We also went to Hard Rock cafe one night, which was awesome. They're obsessed with the Beatles over there, so you wouldn't be surprised to find one of George Harrison's acoustic guitars on the wall. It was an enjoyable night with some groovy music (obviously).

One night that wasn't so groovy, was the meal at Lindy's. Service was crap and the food wasn't that great. In the US, you tip practically everything, usually somewhere between 10% and 20%. The bill came at Lindy's and circled in red pen was the following:

Great - 18%
Excellent - 20%

I was rather stunned, mainly because of the fact that the service was shit! Then when they took the card to pay, the guy asked "Which was it?" meaning great or excellent? Shocked a little bit more, we said "Erm.....can we give in cash?" He nodded and sorted out the card. Then, when no-one was looking, we scarpered without leaving a tip. The look I got as we fled was quite funny (and scary). The moral - don't eat at Lindy's!

We were planning on going to a comedy show one night. In Times Square, most people stand around saying "Do you like standup comedy?" You usually brush these people off with "No thanks". It becomes a habit.

Turns out the best way to get you to stop and listen is for a black guy to stand there, look at you and say "Do you like black people?"

You tend to pause at that point. Anyway, after a 10 minute comedy conversation, we bought some tickets to the Comic Strip. We were assured that Mr Chris Rock might spontaneously turn up for drinks, but alas he did not. It was a good night, about 3 hours of 15-min slots. You got quite a variety and if you didn't like anyone, it wasn't too bad. Everyone seemed to leave after one poor bloke who wasn't funny at all. He just said random things like "Isn't it funny when you come out of the restroom and someone's waiting?!" Silence.

You can't go to New York without seeing a Broadway show, so off we went to the ticket office and got seats for Phantom of the Opera. Never seen it before (all I knew was Nightwish's version of the title song). But it was pretty awesome, all apart from the stupid bitch in front of me who felt the need to lean forward every 2 minutes to get a better look, thus blocking my view. As payback, when she turned the camera around to take a picture of herself, we flagged her off. She'll have a nice holiday pic!

We went round a few museums too, including the Natural History Museum, MoMA, Met, Guggenheim et al. Got all cultured with the art houses, but I'm sorry, is this really art? Yeah, didn't think so! Nevertheless, there it was. And all the while, insanely talented people work on the streets drawing portraits. It's a screwed up world we live in!

I laughed quite hard at the sign that had a quote, then "Unknown Latin author". If you're like me, you'll get the annoyance of that! I looked and "WTF??!! Unknown Latin author?!" Got out the vid camera and recorded it. Dad watched it and said "Unknown Latin author?!" Idiots shouldn't be allowed to write signs!

We had some major thunderstorms too. A tornado passed on one side, while a storm passed on the other. As we arrived at the airport (to come home), there was lightning every 30 seconds which wasn't great. We were delayed but made it. wasn't a great flight though - a wee bit bumpy.

That's all I can remember at the moment, but sure there's something I'm missing. I documented the whole thing and am planning on putting together a 'Best Of' vid for the blog. Should get it done next week.

Hope everyone's had a good week :)

PS: Here's one for the film buffs: